The Full Frame Initiative grows from our founder Katya Fels Smyth’s experience launching and leading (1995 through 2006) what would now be called a Full Frame Intervention, On The Rise, Inc., in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Despite On The Rise’s success in supporting women who are homeless or in crisis in achieving important new levels of control, choice and connections, she felt that the work and impact of the organization was often misunderstood, but could not find an existing framework that described the approach On The Rise takes.
In 2004, Katya began working with Dr. Lisa Goodman of Boston College. Together, they set out to identify what makes On The Rise and a few other organizations successful where others have not been. The result was identification of a set of principles and practices they came to call The Full Frame Approach, an initial version of which was published in 2006.
Over the next two years, Katya and Lisa’s work elicited a groundswell of interest from community practitioners interested in learning from other practitioners, and making a collective case for this Full Frame way of working.
In 2007, after leaving On The Rise, Katya launched the Full Frame Initiative under the fiscal sponsorship of the Cambridge Community Foundation. The Full Frame Initiative, Inc. became an independent organization in 2010 with its own federal 501(c)(3) status.
From its inception, FFI was envisioned as a systems change organization that would leverage the power of what’s already working, drawing energy, wisdom and expertise from a Network of highly effective Full Frame Programs. Working in a network way means that much of our strength lies outside the boundaries of our organization. Numerous other individuals and organizations participate in our gatherings, activities and conferences; inform our practice and policy suggestions; and provide all the other kinds of support that an ambitious start-up needs.
In 2008, FFI began to put together a network of programs and allies to collectively work for change. FFI convened leadership from three organizations and a number of strategic allies for a two day intensive, Testing the Waters. This convening led to further refinement of the Full Frame Approach into The Full Frame Approach 2.0; and identified a major policy barrier FFI would address in the months and years to come: evaluation.
In early 2009, A Lot to Lose: A Call to Rethink What Constitutes “Evidence” in Finding Social Interventions that Work by FFI founder Katya Fels Smyth and advisory council member Lisbeth (Lee) Schorr was published as a working paper of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where Katya is a research fellow. The article continues to be widely circulated and catalyzed a number of conversations around the country on how programs should be evaluated. In June 2009, FFI held Moving the Needle on Evaluation, a two day convening of seven organizations and strategic allies from policy, practice, research and advocacy. The discussions and conclusions of this gathering not only helped participants in their daily work—it gave FFI new information to refine a new framework for evaluation.
With our articulation of “what works” (the Full Frame Approach and Five Domains of Wellbeing framework), FFI is increasingly sought out to provide expertise to funders and policymakers as they seek to align their funding and their policies to best catalyze lasting change in our most marginalized communities.
Going forward, we will continue to
- expand our network of programs and allies, broadening the base from which we draw our knowledge and allowing more organizations to connect with one another in peer learning networks;
- seek out partnerships with health and human service practitioners, providing support and new tools for their practice and further testing and refining the Full Frame Approach/Five Domains of Wellbeing framework; and
- leverage the knowledge gleaned from our networks and project partners to further a shared policy agenda, engaging state and federal officials in removing barriers to meaningful evaluations and important community practice.
Our history and future are written by those who shape it. We welcome your alliance and interest, and hope you will contact us.